How caring for the earth is a sacred duty, Bishop Budge explains

He spoke at Utah Valley University as part of the International Academic Conference on the Sustainable Development Goals

Individuals, families and communities share a sacred duty to care for the earth, said Bishop L. Todd Budge, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Speaking during the First Annual International Academic Conference on the Sustainable Development Goals, Bishop Budge said “reverence is the starting point for environmental stewardship.”

That reverence can come when “in quiet moments, we discern the holiness of the earth,” he said. 

His remarks at the conference, hosted at Utah Valley University with the United Nations, described “why it matters that we care for each other by caring for the earth.” 

He spoke of the “humbling and memorable experience” to represent the Church recently in the announcement of a $32 million donation to the United Nations World Food Programme. 

Bishop L. Todd Budge, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, spoke at Utah Valley University on Oct. 5, 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Pointing out that caring for the earth is not a new endeavor for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bishop Budge shared a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1832, inscribed by Frederick Williams and cited as part of the Joseph Smith Papers

In that manuscript, Joseph said the sun, earth, moon, stars, birds, fish and “beasts of the field,” all “bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power.” 

Bishop Budge then asserted the “solemn responsibility we have in taking care of this divine creation.” 

He not only discussed the Church’s ongoing efforts to be responsible stewards of the earth as Heavenly Father’s creation, but also the the doctrine supporting these efforts. 

“This trust is not a matter of what we have the right to do to the earth, but the responsibility to care for the earth,” he said. “The earth is a gift to care for, not a possession to keep.”

Bishop Budge shared from the October 2022 general conference where Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé spoke about stewardship of the earth, as well. 

“Our stewardship over God’s creations also includes, at its pinnacle, a sacred duty to love, respect, and care for all human beings with whom we share the earth,” Bishop Caussé said. 

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Eight years ago, Elder Marcus Nash, a General Authority Seventy, also presented about the intersection of righteous dominion and compassion when it comes to caring for the planet. 

Quoting Elder Nash’s remarks, Bishop Budge addressed overconsumption. 

“The unbridled, voracious consumer is not consistent with God’s plan of happiness, which calls for humility, gratitude and mutual respect,” Elder Nash said. 

After teaching gospel principles about caring for the earth, Bishop Budge shared some statistics to illustrate the Church’s efforts to conserve and protect the planet. 

How the Church acts as a steward of the earth

“We are very humbled by this challenge and realize that we are not perfect — but we are trying,” Bishop Budge said of the Church’s initiatives. 

The following are some of the examples he provided: 

  • Church headquarters in Salt Lake City reduced water consumption by 30 million gallons since 2018.
  • Energy consumption at Church headquarters reduced by 17.8 gigawatt hours in that same period.
  • The Church’s Print and Distribution Center recycled 3,679 tons of paper, 303 tons of cardboard, 175 tons of plastic, and 55 gallons of used oil. 

He also talked about revised agricultural land use, landscaping, transportation and construction practices. 

The purpose of all these changes is to help those who will inhabit the planet in the future, he said. 

“The consequences of our actions, for better or worse, accumulate into the future and are sometimes felt only generations later,” Bishop Budge said. “Stewardship requires feet and hands at work in the present with a gaze fixed on the future.”

That stewardship helps individuals become more like their Heavenly Father, he said in conclusion. 

“We have the power within us to not only maintain, but to be co-creators with God in beautifying and replenishing the earth,” he said. 

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